Julia Brown looks forward to new team building opportunities at Hope College


Julia Brown

Senior Julia Brown posing for the camera in a field

Senior Julia Brown spent her first year playing lacrosse caked in mud.

In the sixth grade, when Julia first started playing lacrosse seven years ago, her team had to practice on a field lovingly dubbed the “cow pasture.” This resulted in muddy cleats, muddy sticks, and mud-soaked memories that she remembers to this day.

“We had to play on this nasty cow pasture field at Forest Hills Eastern,” Julia said. “There was mud everywhere–people would be falling all the time. You would just be covered in mud by the end of practice. We were all doing it together, and it was nasty, but we all had such a great time.”

This unique team bonding experience helped Julia to find a community within her sixth-grade lacrosse team since the girls were from all three Forest Hills schools. Combined with her love for competition, the close-knit, family feel of the team had hooked Julia from the start. Some of her favorite memories to this day are of team bonding exercises that the girls experienced together.

“When we were a joint team with Northern and Eastern,” Julia said, “we would do team dinners before every single game. And the very first one we did, we had our freshman bonding. We all had to go downstairs and the freshman all had to put on dances with some of the upperclassmen. It was so embarrassing in the moment, but getting to do that with the older girls really just immediately bonded us. To know that nobody was judging and we were all just having fun, still, to this day, after four years, it’s one of the best memories I have [of] the sport.”

When FHC decided to make its own team Julia’s sophomore year, Julia and the rest of the girls that had played before wanted to emphasize team bonding to solidify their chemistry as a team and to nurture the bond that forms throughout the season.

“[Making a new team] was more difficult than I was expecting it to be,” Julia said. “We only had so many girls that had ever played the sport–about half of the team was completely new. So navigating that dynamic of having division one commits, but also having girls that have never picked up a stick playing on the same team [was difficult]. We had to make sure everybody felt included, but overall, it was a really good thing for the school. And I’m glad we did it. [At] the moment, it was a little bit stressful to navigate, but I’m very happy that I was able to be there to help move the team along.”

While the stress of trying to start a new team was, at times, hard to manage, Julia had the support of her teammates and her coaches, not only on the school team but also on her club team, to help shoulder the load. One coach specifically that Julia looks up to is Keagan Pontious, who will be her head coach next year at Hope College, where she committed earlier this year.

“She has been my coach for five years now, and she has been just one of the most influential people in my life overall,” Julia said. “She’s going to be my college coach too, but she texts me all the time to make sure I’m doing well mentally [and] physically; she’s really motivated on the lacrosse side, but also just as a person–she’s a really good role model to have.”

Having her same coach next year was definitely one of the reasons Julia decided to commit to Hope next year, but she also fell in love with the campus and the amenities that they have to offer her for the next four years.

“I really like the campus,” Julia said. “The location is right [next] to the lake, but also next to downtown Holland. They have a really good social work program, which is what I’m interested in. And I like smaller campuses. So it was not too overwhelming for me. I didn’t think I would do very well on a huge campus.”

With a combination of competitiveness and nostalgia, Julia was thrilled to be able to commit to spending the next four years playing her favorite sport. From reflecting upon her sixth-grade self covered in mud to the person she is now, Julia is looking forward to her next four years at Hope.

“[Signing] didn’t feel like too much because your coach isn’t allowed to be there for NCAA,” Julia said. “I had some friends there, some teammates, my family, but there are so many people doing it, it kind of goes faster than I was expecting it to. And the emotions didn’t really resonate until a couple [of] days after I sent my signing letter back to my coach and she was like, ‘it’s official, this is happening.’ That’s more when it finally clicked. I’m committed to this for the next four years of my life, and it is thrilling.”